October 18, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Leaders of eight Michigan congregations of Catholic Sisters have joined to urge Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to address deep concerns they have about the state’s enforcement of regulations protecting waterways. In a joint letter, dated October 17, the 27 leaders – whose congregations have had a presence in Michigan for up to 170 years – called on the governor to “take immediate steps to enforce existing regulations limiting total E. coli loads in our waterways and act to establish limits for other harmful nutrients.”
In a separate letter to the governor, also dated October 17, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters addressed concerns about the presence of microcystin, E. coli, and other nutrients found in the south branch of the River Raisin, following up on earlier correspondence about the matter.
“We are concerned that the State of Michigan is setting the bar too low in its tolerance of microcystin in waterways that domesticated animals and wildlife use as drinking water; that Michiganders swim and fish in; and that cities (in our area) draw upon for municipal water,” the General Council wrote. The letter was written in response to information sent by Teresa Seidel, Director of the Water Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), on behalf of the governor in reply to a letter from the Council dated September 11.
In their follow up letter, the Sisters asked the governor to explain the basis for the State of Michigan’s determination that the concentrations of microcystin found in Black Creek – a tributary of Wolf Creek which feeds Lake Adrian, a primary source of city drinking water – are “well below levels of concern,” as stated by MDEQ. Specifically, the Adrian Dominican Council members asked the governor, “Given the Flint crisis, what direction are you providing MDEQ regarding critical public health determinations like this?”
The General Council also asked the governor to address the failure of the State of Michigan to develop and publish guidelines that would compel those with permits for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, to evaluate their waste management practices and take corrective action as needed. Test results from the area “repeatedly show E. coli in excess of approved levels,” the Sisters noted.
Members of the General Council are Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress/Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator/Councilor; Patricia Harvat, OP, Councilor; and Elise D. García, OP, Councilor.
The joint letter to Governor Snyder of the leaders of the eight congregations also addressed the need for stricter regulatory enforcement. “We are concerned that current industrial farm (CAFO) permit regulations and best-management practices are failing to protect Michigan waterways, putting the health and well-being of all Michiganders at risk,” the Sisters wrote.
“We add our voice to those calling for an end to the practice of giving federal taxpayer dollars to polluting factory farms, for a ban on the application of untreated waste on frozen or snow-covered ground, and for a reduction in the rate of phosphorous allowed from manure applications to match other forms of phosphorus fertilizer,” the congregation leaders stated.
The joint letter was signed by the leadership of the Adrian Dominican Sisters (Adrian), Consolata Missionary Sisters (Belmont), Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters (Grand Rapids), Home Visitors of Mary (Detroit), Marist Sisters (Eastpointe), Mission Sisters of the Holy Spirit (Saginaw), Servants of Jesus (Saginaw), and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Monroe).
The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters had received a letter from Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), a nonprofit organization that has done extensive testing of waterways in south central Michigan. The ECCSCM letter addresses specific issues raised by MDEQ in its response on behalf of the governor to the earlier letter sent by the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters on September 11.
I am proud and grateful for leadership of religious congregations of sisters in speaking truth to power. Working in collaboration enables us to make a greater difference. It is so important to guard our water sources from polution and contamination.